Friday, 12 June 2015

Forest Row to Hastings (London might be calling but I ain't picking up)

The weather forecast for this part of the world also has been plagued with some rain predicted for today for about a week now (Travelling by bike I seem to pay more attention to the weather forecast than car drivers ;-). Since I have to cover about 60 kms today, which from past experience can easily turning into 85 with a single wrong turn, I also want to leave as early as possible, i.e. make good on the free breakfast with everything already packed and ready to roll out at 7:30 am.

Clouds in the East
Which is why, when waking up yet another time at 4:30 am and my early morning Math tells me that free Hotel breakfast at 7 am is only 2.5 hours away, I get up.
It is dead-quiet when I have a cigarette outside at 5 am, only interrupted by distant church bells (at 5 am !!!) and the occasional owl, pigeon, or cuckoo bird (OK, so Ornithology is not one of my strengths)
The Brambletye Hotel.  Nice; I'd stay here again.

Some early morning internetting also reveals another interesting (?) fact (?).  In Hollywood I stayed in a hotel, which prided itself of having accommodated James Dean and Marilyn Monroe. No, they didn't spend time in my current hotel, but Sherlock Homes and Dr. Watson did when solving the Black Peter case.  OK, I am aware that they are fictional characters.  But Sir Arthur Conan Doyle did stay here, but not in the newly (?) constructed hotel annex that houses most of the rooms ;-(

Even before breakfast, at 6:50 am, I notice wet spots caused by a light drizzle in the smoking area of the hotel. NO NO NO. I can handle a light drizzle, but please hold the RAIN until I have reached today's destination!

Big Ben in October 2013
Some of the readers with higher-than-average geography knowledge will have noticed that I took a plane to London, landed in London Gatwick, but that Big Ben does not appear in this Blog. That's Right! I'm NOT going to London this time.  Been there, done that, don't feel the need for repeat. Maybe again on a future London to Glasgow bike trip ;-) 

At 7 am I'm sitting at the breakfast table and at first think that this breakfast is VERY continental, i.e. just juice, toast, and jam. I don't much mind because I get fabulous toast and my favourite jam, black currant. But then the waiter arrives to ask me whether I'm ready to order. When he sees the the clueless in my face, he suggests 'Full English?' to which I agree. Overeating is OK today, since after an initial climb to an elevation of about 200 meters, the rest of the day's cycling will be downhill ;-)

At 7:30 am I'm heading off into the opposite direction

Instead of the slightly longer cycle route, I take a major road, the A22.  Potential rain is looming and I'm in no mood to get wet today.  The price I'm paying for the fast travel becomes evident as soon as I miss the fast road. The A22 goes around Maresfield and all the other small towns.  Maresfield is pretty ;-)

In Pevensey, site of the Norman landings in 1066, I discover a pub.  The proprietress with BIG white hair (remember Coronation Street? ;-) is cleaning her very pretty Audi convertible outside and when I ask her where in this lovely town I could get a glass of white wine at this hour, she directs me into her establishment though one of the many tiny doors of the ancient building.  Wifi there ain't, but the 4 Pound 40 Pound Sauvignon Blanc I decide on (Need some freshening up after the long ride  ;-)  really has lovely flavour or taste notes.
Not my favourite flavour note is what she sprays into the air a moment later when she storms through every corner of her entire pub.  At first I think she is trying to exterminate me, but it’s only a can of whatever the British use instead of Febreze.

The Smuggler Pub

Pevensey Castle
In the absence of WiFi, I use remnants of the map information I looked at this morning to figure out how to get to Hastings along the water.  I put 47 kms on the day trip counter by 10:30 am and the rain is still far away.  Time for the scenic route; I'm close to the ocean after all !

The road to Norman Bay is lovely and by some quality of the light and the air I can feel the ocean is near.

At some point the feeling is getting overwhelming and only then do I realize that I’m separated from the ocean by only 100 meters.  I park the bike and dip my feet into the ocean.  At first the cold stuff just nips at my toes as if sniffing me, but when it apparently recognizes, three little waves of increasing amplitude engulf my ankles.

When I get to Bexfield, my bladder is almost full and my battery and stomach both are achingly close to being empty.  It’s always good to run down the stomach together with the battery because they can be conveniently filled at the very same time. At least that’s what I thought when I see an Indian Cuisine restaurant with a Wi-Fi symbol on the door (wife in restaurants is far from standard in the UK, which is quite irritating.  The place is closed but will open in 20 minutes. Time for a walk around town. 

I get back to the Indian place and the waiter is utterly confused when I request a table close to a power outlet.  There are none.  When I ask for a power outlet in the kitchen or at the bar, he actually tells me TWICE that ALL of them are in constant use and that there are NO power outlets for me to use.  His whole body language and facial expression tells me that I am weird for even thinking about issuing such a demand.  I can deal with eating without internet (I type my thoughts and impressions into a Word file), but eating without a power outlet?  NO THANK YOU! I tell the surprised waiter and march out.  Right across the street is a lovely lady in a fish & chips restaurant that might not be able to offer me Wi-Fi, but instantly points out a free power outlet with a big smile. 
When I ask her whether the Rockfish & Chips is really that much better than the Codfish and chips that is 2 pounds cheaper, she freely admits that she is ALLERGIC AGAINST FISH and therefore has no clue.  But an elderly stroke-victim lady (her face deforms unilaterally when smiling) sitting at another table pines offers the opinion that ‘here’ Codfish is actually preferable to Rockfish.
And look at the thing I get:
 When was the last time that you ordered Fish & Chips and they actually brought you A FISH &Chips?  Vancouver is a harbour city but all one ever gets is small pieces of some fish camouflaged in batter.  If one possessed the magical power of healing the fish in Fish&Chips, it would be no use in Vancouver, because what’s the point of reviving chopped-up and amputated bits and pieces.  Here in Bexhill, on the other hand, a magically inclined guest could throw an entire happy fish back into the ocean.

But I digress ;-)
From what?
Where was I?

not my pic but I consider myself fortunate to have been there
Right! I am in Bexhill.  Not a place I will terribly miss once I have left.  I will miss this F&C place, but not much else. It just occurred to me what this place reminds me of.  25 years ago, there used to be a small seafood  place on Hastings Street close to Main Street.  Yes, that is skid row now and it was skid row then.  But my Grandfather would take me down there because the grimy little Asian-operated store would serve you heavenly Fish & Chips for very little money.  It was famous for that.  And people would come from 10s of miles away for that fish. 

No, the sign is gone too ;-(
In my 28 years of living in Vancouver, I have encountered quite a few of that kind of restaurant.  And yes, ALL of them are gone now.  Because in today’s Vancouver the food doesn't need to be good. It needs to be chique.  In today’s Vancouver pride in one’s work and accomplishment doesn't get you anything.  It gets you evicted when your shallow customers go to the chique place next door and your landlord increases the lease rent again.  I miss that old Vancouver and Grandpa and all the other people that made it what it was.  Screw today’s honking ignorant money-idolizing and people-ignoring Vancouverite. Something went seriously wrong along the way and everyone noticed but no-one is doing something about it.

A tall guy comes into the F&C store who apparently can only emit grunting single-syllable noises.  EEEH, UUUH, AAAH. You get the idea.  The owner shouts “Hello James, how’s it going?’  Insert one of the above monosyllabic options. “Where are you going?” Insert a different one and an arm wave.  He orders his food. "Would you like a drink with that?" Insert third monosyllabic grunt.  I so admire the owner of this store and I'm happy the Indian place didn't have any outlets left. When I pay I mention to the owner “It is nice to see that you not only feed this town but also take care of it” to which she replies “Thank you!” with a sad knowing half-smile.   Like the older lady, I would like to eat here every day!  


Definitely the correct cardinal direction but too small to be France

Seagulls having fun

Hastings on the horizon

Not sure who lives in these holes in the cliff (dune foxes?)

I get to Hastings around 2 pm and unhappily have to discover that there is no hotel check-in (it's not actually a hotel; it's called a guest-house) between 1-4 pm.  Again it is 7 am Vancouver time and I have to kill 2 hours before I sleep. Fortunately there is a Bistro right across from the hotel, where some white wine hangs out with me during the waiting time.
The JD bar (not my pic)

Service in the hotel is lackluster but I do like my tiny room under the roof, with tilting windows providing a view of the roof and seagulls jetting by. The last bit of steep convoluted stairs (one pretty much walks them on all fours) reminds me of the tower in Bruges; larger people just don't fit through here.  The house internet does not reach into my room, of course.  How am I going to call Grandma?  

After sleeping for 3 hours I climb down the staircase to a floor where the WiFi network has some bars.  Alas, the password provided in the hotel binder is the WRONG one.  At 8:15 I repeatedly ring the bell at reception (open 4 pm - 9 pm) as she had told me to do if I couldn't get the WiFi working. NOPE, no-one is showing up.  I go shopping (chocolate, cookies, and wine), head back to the hotel and try ringing the receptionista again. NOPE. Fortunately there is a tiny sign by the front door providing the CORRECT WiFi password. Back to the landing on the 2nd floor. Boot up the computer, CONNECT and dial Grandma using Skype.  IT WORKS !

Relieved, I head back to the same Bistro I was spending time at earlier (good internet), and not even a minute after the waitress whisks out some food to guests at other tables she tells me at 8:55 that the kitchen is closed.  Is this what English life is like? A constant battle against the little things in life ?  Is that where Vancouver gets it from?

On other fronts, Hastings has been conquered by HORDES of 15-17 year-old German and Russian youths that roam the streets and bars in packs numbering between 5 and 20. School trips?  This is Europe, so they hit the booze hard, as I did when I visited Barcelona at the tender age of 15 ;-) At 10 pm, the Russian kids in my Bistro have switched to doing shots at the bar and it is time for me to climb back into my refuge under the roof to get some more Zs ;-)
The Hastings Promenade

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